The Hilltopper’s Declassified Morris Hills Survival Guide

When I was a freshman entering Morris Hills, I knew that my experience wouldn’t be filled with spontaneous group dance numbers and emotional duets sung in hallways like in Disney’s High School Musical, but I didn’t expect it to be so drastically different. In movies about high school, there’s always the popular girl, the attractive jock, the “nerd”, and a variety of stereotypes. Morris Hills, luckily enough, doesn’t conform to such restrictive standards. Our student population is diverse, and no one fits entirely into clichéd tropes established by the media. However, one thing this school, as well as many others, has in common with the movies is that there are unwritten rules everyone follows. Not just rules about discipline and the dress code, but points that have been ingrained into our culture as part of the student body at Morris Hills High School.

As a senior, I’ve spent the last four years bearing witness to these aspects of Morris Hills life, and I remember being a freshman and wishing there was some sort of  guidebook I could follow, with tips and tricks to help me get by without seeming like an outsider. This reporter has asked members of the student population and some members of the faculty, and they had a lot to contribute to this “Unofficial Guide Book to Morris Hills.”

Seniors Jacqueline Lanigan and Komal Kerkar outlined some important points that might be helpful to those who are new to Morris Hills High School. “Don’t wear Knolls’ colors,” Kerkar said, referring to our rival school, Morris Knolls, and their school colors of yellow and green. “Walk fast,” she added, “and on the right side of the hallway.”

“Have school spirit!” Lanigan advised. “Get involved with school activities and sports, because that’s a good way to make friends and pursue your interests at the same time.” On a serious note, she added, “Know your place, too. You gain respect from your fellow students as you move up in grade. It’s tradition for seniors to win the Battle of the Classes. Try not to take it to heart; we’ve all been through it, and in four years the freshmen will be seniors and it will be their turn. Don’t take it too seriously.”
Junior Victoria Ribarich also had a few words to contribute. “The table you claim on the first two days of school is yours. Try not to move around or switch tables; it gets confusing and awkward,” she said. “Also, dress appropriately. No one wants to see too much of you.”

Teachers who have graduated from Morris Hills recalled the culture here during their time as students and how it has changed since they’ve graduated.

Mr. Mein, a history and criminology teacher who graduated from Hills in 2003, said this: “The culture is pretty similar. It hasn’t changed much since I’ve been here, but I like Morris Hills because its culture is pretty unique.”

Mrs. Rome, a math teacher who graduated in 1987, said, “Morris Hills has always been a family and was always about being together. But one major thing that’s changed since I’ve been around is that back in my day, the Bucket was used as the smoking area. Students and teachers would just smoke together back there. And when it was banned, they moved to the bathrooms. Going into the bathrooms was disgusting.”

“You could smell smoke in the bathrooms from the outside,” affirmed Ms. Yaeger, who has been teaching in the district for 30 years.

“The biggest thing that’ll come up will be what happened to the Senior Y,” said Mr. Ellis, a history teacher who graduated from Hills in 1991. “The Senior Y used to be where seniors hung out, hence the name, and there used to be speakers there that were connected to a radio in the main office which only played 105.5 WDHA and they’d turn the radio off when we got too loud. Once, we all had a sing-along to Bon Jovi’s ‘Blaze of Glory’ from the movie Young Guns and the office turned off the music and it was never turned back on again.” According to a previous issue of the Hilltopper, the Senior Y was moved from the entrance near the main office to the benches in the gym foyer because of the administration’s desire to tighten up security around campus.

When asked about any advice she could give freshmen and new students, Mrs. Rome replied, “Say hello to people. Look up and smile. Go to games, shows, and concerts on campus to support your classmates.”

Putting yourself out there may seem daunting at first, but soon it will become second nature, and so will the “unspoken rules” to which everyone adapts. Every society has these rules and standards, but what makes the culture at Morris Hills High School unique is that despite the occasional rivalry between the classes, we are, first and foremost, a family.